Album Review: Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

By Maria Lubanovic, Staff Writer
[Reprise; 2017]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key Tracks: “Show Yourself,” “Precious Stones,” “Roots Remain”

Emperor of Sand is Mastodon’s seventh album since the band got together in 2000. Massively influenced by the recent death of one of the band member’s mother, the album features a theme of time and death, rough vocals and slamming guitar riffs.

“Sultan’s Curse” opens with soft drumming, then slams into a rolling guitar riff. This sets the stage for the rest of the album in the same style, almost metal, but still smooth enough to consider it rock. It’s one of the key tracks in creating a sort of mystical feeling to the rest of the album. “Show Yourself” throws itself immediately into a slamming guitar and vocal melody. It features an amazing and technical guitar solo accented by perfect drumming. It’s by far the most mainstream sounding track on the album but is a hidden gem. “Precious Stones” follows the same formula, and urges listeners: “Don’t waste your time / Don’t let it slip away from you / Don’t waste your time / If it’s the last thing that you do.” The guitar interlude in this track is equally impressive as the one before it.

Metal takes its biggest win in “Roots Remain”, a track that is strong and heartfelt, and features the longest guitar solo along with the chilling yet reminiscent final lyrics of “The end is not the end you see / It’s just the recognition of a memory.” It seems like it would have been a fitting end for the album until the next track rolls in with the same metal gusto. “Ancient Kingdom” continues the adventure and battle theme started in “Sultan’s Curse,” with a remaining ancient kingdom plagued by battle and a hope to live forever. It seems like it could be the theme for an epic video game. Honestly, that fits most of the songs on this album. The synth solo from “Clandestiny” would make an incredible fight sequence track, and the chorus and solos from “Andromeda” are the boss fight music.

Emperor of Sand delivers one banging track after another, bringing the punch and showing off massive technical skill. This album is the perfect combination of metal and rock and pushes the envelope while remaining cohesive. Someone should just make a corresponding video game: It, like this album, would be epic.

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